Study objectives: Patients with HIV-1 infection or AIDS may present with abnormal chest radiograph (CXR) findings in the absence of symptoms specific to the lung. The objective was to determine the spectrum of disease and the diagnostic modalities employed in these patients.
Methods: From 1996 to 1998, we identified patients with HIV-1 infection presenting to the Bellevue Hospital Chest Service with abnormal CXR findings, and absence of specific pulmonary symptoms. Charts were reviewed for presence of constitutional symptoms, CD4 lymphocyte count, use of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) prophylaxis, eventual diagnosis, and all diagnostic modalities employed. CXR findings were classified according to their predominant abnormalities: nodules, infiltrates, cavity, mass, adenopathy, or effusion.
Results: Forty-four patients were eligible for inclusion. Eight-six percent of patients had a CD4 lymphocyte count < 200 cells/μL, and 57% were receiving PCP prophylaxis. Nodular disease was the most common radiographic abnormality (57%), followed by adenopathy (17%). A definitive diagnosis was obtained in 86% of the patients. The most common diagnosis was tuberculosis (26%), followed by nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM; 23%) and Kaposi sarcoma (12%). No patients had PCP or bacterial pneumonia. Sixty-two percent of patients required an invasive modality to establish a diagnosis. Only 18% of patients with tuberculosis (2 of 11 patients) received diagnoses by sputum analysis.
Conclusions: Patients with HIV-1 infection, abnormal CXR findings, and lack of pulmonary symptoms have a high incidence of infectious disorders, especially pulmonary tuberculosis and infection due to NTM. The high prevalence of treatable and potentially communicable disorders warrants an aggressive diagnostic approach in these patients.